I feel a sense of fear when I think about the digital world and its impact on our children. I have yet to give my child a smartphone – and dread the day it comes given how the device can be a pandora’s box. However, hearing from David Eaton via the Dr James Dobson Family Talk series has given me some perspective and confidence in connecting with our children in this digital era.
Four Tips on How to Connect with Our Kids in the Digital Era
1. Create a Smartphone/Device Agreement and Contract
When a phone is given, you can limit its usage and access. Put parenting controls via apps, for instance sending texts, disallow sending of pictures while enabling GPS access. Also, keep having conversations with the child about the smartphone usage – the kind of usage, where the phone should be when it’s bedtime (hint: NOT in bedroom) and other responsibilities.
The agreement should be include rules for the whole family, not just the child. This means that – parents will also need to model the right behaviour.
2. Empathise with your child
Our children faces problems of their generation that could be hard for us to comprehend. The culture they face in school as well as among peers could be challenging to counter. Speaking up or having a different viewpoint may cause them to feel very lonely and impossible to fit in. Knowing some of the language they might experience can help you to decipher the language of their world. Click here to see a guide to teen slang, and this may even help you start a conversation about the language used.
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Acknowledge that you will not understand the kind of difficulties in their time, especially with the rise in digital socialisation and perhaps even more peer pressure on there. But sit with them frequently, chat about the issues and perhaps provide a reassuring word of support.
3. Build trust and ensure Your Child feels safe and connected to you
Undeniably, parents have more influence than we know and we are our child’s chief advocate. We might see other messages opposing this but there is no one more powerful in our child’s life. We will be in our child’s life for decades, and knowing that there are challenges along the way, we must continue to keep communicating with our child.
4. Know what dangers they face in the digital world
With a click and a swipe, the online world offers much unsavoury content that can be highly addictive and consuming. Comparing the time when we were young, that world has expanded exponentially. Getting to know the type of dangers they face would help you to know the threats better and hopefully gain insight into their world, perhaps even to see what they might be addicted to. Ensure that you protect them from these very dangers, starting from the devices you are handing to them.
Engage Online and Offline, Keep Being There for Your Child
There is probably a lot we cannot see, feel and hear in our child’s digital world. Let’s keep advocating for them, being there fully present rather than being stuck in our own digital worlds. It is a different and difficult culture, but parents’ voices remain fully relevant and powerful to every child.